Foot Conditions A-Z
A strain is a torn or stretched muscle (also called a “pulled” muscle) or tendon. Tendons connect muscles to bones, and a sudden twisting or pulling of these tissues can cause a strain. Strains can also develop over time due to repetitive stress and the aging process. In the foot, the most common strains occur in the Achilles tendon and in the anterior and posterior tibial tendons. Strains can also occur in other muscles of the foot and the tendons that attach to them. Plantar fasciitis also results from a strain of the plantar fascia. There are two primary types of strains, acute (sudden) and chronic (which happens over time from repetitive stress).
Symptoms of a strain may include the following:
- Pain in the area of the strain - forefoot, arch/mid-foot or heel.
- Spasms of the muscle or tendon.
- Difficulty moving the muscle or the tendon.
Strains can be caused by the following:
- Slipping on slick surfaces.
- Running, jumping or throwing during sports and activities.
- Lifting heavy objects.
- Participating in sports or activities without proper conditioning (muscles are not strong enough and flexibility may be limited; therefore you are more likely to sustain injury).
- Fatigue (tired muscles are less likely to provide support for the joints).
- Insufficient or improper warm-up (warming up before vigorous physical activity loosens the muscles and increases range of motion, making you less vulnerable to strains)
Prevention and Treatment
To avoid strains:
- Warm-up properly before exercise, activities and sports.
- Stay in good condition, maintaining muscles that are strong and flexible.
- IPFH suggests that you wear only properly selected and fitted, as part of an integrated approach, padded socks with shoes with non-slip outsoles and any inserts or orthotics prescribed or recommended by a doctor or foot health professional. Peer-reviewed, published studies have shown that wearing clinically tested padded socks can help protect against injuries to the skin/soft tissue of the foot due to impact, pressure and shear forces.
When treating a strain, ice the painful area quickly, then apply ice for 10 to 15 minutes every hour for the first 24 hours. After that, apply every three to four hours for about three days or until pain and swelling subside. After three days, applying heat may be helpful.
Rest the injured area for at least one day, and if possible, keep the area raised above your heart. Avoid using the strained muscle or tendon if you are still in pain; as the pain subsides, slowly increase activity. Cut back on activity if pain recurs.
Depending on the severity of the strain or tear, it may be necessary to see your doctor. An Achilles tendon strain can weaken the tendon and cause a rupture or complete break in the tendon, which you want to avoid at all costs. See your doctor, as a precaution, for any pain in the Achilles area.
Also see your doctor if:
- Pain and/or swelling does not begin to subside after about a week or if you have difficulty moving the affected muscle or tendon.
- You have pain in the inside ankle area, since it may be a sign of posterior tibial tendinitis or posterior tibial dysfunction.
- You have soreness, pain, redness, swelling or other indications of foot problems that persist for more than a few days.